A Pill Against Epiphenomenalism

Patrick Spät


This paper argues that epiphenomenalism – the view that physical
states cause mental states, but not vice versa – is counterintuitive.
Though we cannot prove its falsehood we can give strong reasons for not
believing in inefficacious mental states. In doing so, this paper claims
that the well-known counter-examples like arguments from the common sense or
the theory of evolution are correct. Unfortunately, many arguments against
epiphenomenalism do not contain empirical facts from the neurosciences.
This paper tries both to do justice to this lack and to establish a new
argument against epiphenomenalism: The placebo-effect provides good reasons
to hold the view that mental states are efficacious in respect to an agent´s
behaviour. On the one hand it is difficult for the epiphenomenalist to
explain the placebo-effect without considering the causal effects of mental
states, on the other hand there are well-founded empirical studies on the
placebo-effect which support the contemporary claims against an
epiphenomenal view.

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